Hughes | “I'm Here To Learn”
Will Hughes has added to the feel-good factor around Marco Silva by saying he believes his game can reach new heights under Watford's new Head Coach.
Four clean sheets in the last five pre-season matches suggests some excellent coaching is taking place on the training field, giving the Hornets a solid base on which to launch a Premier League campaign. Nathaniel Chalobah says Silva was one of the factors in him joining the club and Hughes has been equally impressed with the style and methods of the Head Coach.
“His persona's brilliant, on and off the pitch,” said Hughes.
“He's very understanding, a very good communicator, so I'm going to learn a lot from him. I've already learnt a lot in the last few weeks, so I can't wait to see how my game improves under him.”
Hughes has been regarded as arguably the brightest prospect outside the Premier League for the past six years and long been linked with a move away from Derby.
“It's been a long time coming,” he said. “I'm looking forward to a massive challenge and the chance to play in the Premier League. I didn't have the greatest of seasons last year with Derby, but the chance to come to the Premier League was one I couldn't turn down.
“I've wanted to play in the Premier League: it's every young boy's dream, and it's been a long time coming for me. I've played against Watford many times. It had a good vibe about it: good family club, and it was an easy choice in the end.”
Hughes did leave the Midlands with a little bit of a heavy heart.
“Derby's all I've known for the last 10, 15 years, as a club and a place, so it was a massive move for me, but it's been great settling down. I've got used to the area and the people. Obviously it's a big change for me, so it was fresh start.
“I joined pre-season straight away in Austria, had a couple of extra weeks off due to the [Under-21s] Euros, but everyone's been brilliant with me, all the boys. It's a bit of a culture shock, going into a changing room with different nationalities, but it's one I've embraced, and I'll learn a lot from.”
Harry Redknapp said in 2013 that Hughes was destined to be a “top player in the Premier League” and there was certainly no shortage of scouts being dispatched to Pride Park to run the rule over the left-footed playmaker. He was linked with a move away in virtually every window since he made his debut as a 16-year-old.
“The rumours became quite boring in the end,” says Hughes. “Ever since I was 16 I've been touted for big clubs: 90 per cent of them were just that - rumours that papers made up - so I let it go over my head, but now that I'm here I'm looking forward to it.”
Did his head not ever get turned as a teenager amid all the constant speculation?
“A bit, especially when I was 16. You see yourself linked with these big clubs, so it was difficult. The more it went on, the more people I spoke to, I realised it was just rumours and that nothing ever came of it.”
Watford were keen on Hughes the year they got promoted to the Premier League but cooled their interest after the England Under-21 international suffered a set-back.
“Two years ago I had my knee injury,” he explains. "I was out for that season, and last season I didn't have the greatest of seasons, from a personal point of view, there was a lot of stuff going on. It's happened now and I can only look forward to it.”
Hughes is now a Watford player, signing a five-year deal, but he has started one game in pre-season, the 1-0 win over Eibar in Austria. He accepts he must be patient for his chance in a midfield area that is packed with attractive options.
“To get games will be a big plus for me. I'm not going to walk into the team straight away, there's quality players, especially in midfield,” he said.
“I'm here to learn as well, I'm still young, still 22, so just to get game time in the Premier League will be massive for me and we'll go from there.”
The Hornets finished 17th last season but are recalibrating their expectations this time round.
“You've got the top five or six: the amount of money they're spending they should be finishing in those spots, and then the rest is up for grabs,” says Hughes.
“We had a really good start at the start of last year and hopefully can do exactly the same again and carry it on. We all know how difficult the Premier League is, and on their day, anyone can beat anyone, so we'll take confidence in that and hopefully have a good start against Liverpool.”